The Telegraph
Sunday , May 11 , 2014

Cafe corridor

Mrs. Magpie

Where: 570 Lake Terrace Road (near Lake School for Girls, off Vivekananda Park)

Open: Noon to 10pm; 9am to 10pm on weekends

Pocket pinch: Rs 400-plus for two

Stepping in, you almost expect to see Cinderella slipping on her ballerina or Snow White sitting pretty on a stool! Even before you enter, you catch a glimpse of what’s inside through a huge glass window. There are multi-coloured cake domes, pink walls, ornate wrought-iron chairs in white, cherry blossom on pillars, a warm glow of fairy lights and the most tempting of all — a showcase with pretty cupcakes, pastries, chocolates and cookies.

The Afternoon Tea for Two is the best way to experience a little of everything at Mrs. Magpie, run by 31-year-old Sohini Basu Behrens, armed with a degree from Le Cordon Bleu, London. Darjeeling tea comes with four mini cupcakes, four scones and eight finger-sized sandwiches.

From 9am till 1pm on weekends, you get an English brunch (set meal) that has sausages and eggs — scrambled, sunny side up or made-to-order. You also get croissants and basics like baked beans, grilled mushrooms and toast. It costs Rs 475-plus and an additional Rs 25 if you ask for bacon.

The cafe is a free Wi-fi zone and a fave hangout of youngsters. The other additions to the menu are Potpies, Chicken Meatloaf and Veggie Loaf. In the savouries section, Chicken ’’ Cheddar Puff and Ham ’’ Cheese Quiche draw the loudest applause.

La Maison Des Delices, Patisserie & Bistro

Where: P596 CIT Scheme XLVII, Keyatala (crossing of Purna Das Road and Hindusthan Park Road, diagonally opposite Azad Hind Dhaba)

Open: 8.30am to 11pm

Pocket pinch: Rs 1,200-plus for two

Europe meets India at the newest sip-and-bite address of this area. The name, in French, means ‘the house of delicacies’, and it serves up a combination of cuisines — French, Italian, Greek, American.

Must try: Thin-crust pizza, especially Pizza Pepperoni. Watch it turn brown at the live counter. Rs 375-plus

Delices has become a favourite of many a family in the neighbourhood, primarily because of its opulent gold-and-beige interiors and the Continental menu. The 52-cover bistro has high ceilings, chessboard floor tiles, ornate chandeliers, paintings and a giant mirror that lends it a sense of space.

The bistro opens early for breakfast and their classic French breakfast — Salade Aux Lardons — can be quite filling. We liked the poached eggs presented on a bed of greens and bacon. The pesto they use in their Italian fare is made from pine nuts, with basil and olive oil, instead of peanuts. “Pine nuts are more authentic, in Italy they prefer it to peanuts,” said chef Chirodeep Pal, one of the Delices partners.

There are two banquet halls to host parties and free Wi-fi (30MB limit). But the loyalists return, more than anything else, for thin-crust pizza and their signature French comfort food — Fricassee De Poulet, which is simmered chicken and vegetables in a rich silky white sauce.

Canteen @ Byloom

Where: 58B Hindusthan Park

Open: 11am to 8pm

Pocket pinch: Rs 400-plus for two

Stepping into Byloom canteen for the first time, you may think it’s someone’s house, but walk right in. The garments store with its Indian weaves and cheerful hues may make you forget for a moment that you’re here for a warm platter of Bangali jolkhabar. That’s until you spot a big blackboard announcing ‘Today’s Speciality’ with a list reading something like — Luchi, Chholar Dal, Kosha Mangsho, Mangsher Chop, Fowl Cutlet, Daaber Jol…

There are two seating areas. The cosy indoor dining room is done up in earthy tones with bright yellow walls and two film posters. One has Suchitra Sen’s soulful eyes looking at you (a poster of Shilpi gifted by Moon Moon Sen); the other is the iconic Audrey Hepburn from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. In winter, the outdoor area beckons with its set of four bright blue tables. Ring the cute little brass bells to call for service. And ladies, feel at ease to light up in this sheltered zone.

The canteen has recently introduced “home kitchens”. “We invite women with a passion for cooking to come over and cook their prized recipes for the canteen for a day. We upload a post on our Facebook page a week in advance. This has become a hit with our patrons,” said Bappaditya Biswas, one of the Byloom partners. Two such sessions — Papri Boudir Oparer Ranna in January and April, and Sharmiladir Maha Bhoj in February — have been hugely palate-pleasing.

All in all, Canteen @ Byloom is a quaint little place with perhaps the best waiting area in town — the entire Byloom store to browse through!

Wise Owl, The Coffee Shop

Where: 66/2B Purna Das Road, Hindusthan Park

Open: 7.30am to 11am (breakfast only);

11am to 10.45pm (all-day menu)

Pocket pinch: Rs 800-plus for two

When in a car or train, do you crave for a window seat? Well, at Wise Owl, almost every seat is a window seat as this cute place opens up to a clean leafy neighbourhood that lulls you to daydream, and perhaps pen down a few lines.

The 40-seater coffee shop popular with the young and the young-at-heart serves breakfast till 11am and multiple options thereafter that can make for full-fledged meals. The winners though are Meat Lover’s Club Sandwich and Prawn Croquette Wrapped in Bacon that alone can be the subject of a thesis for a foodie. The aroma of Grilled Chicken or Fish can brighten up the gloomiest day and the Avalanche Sundae, you can’t but love it.

Statutory warning: This place is ideal for a laid-back adda, so the management will give you ample “me-time” or “we-time” before the order arrives. If you are in a hurry, do mention it when placing your order. What’s more? It’s a Wi-fi zone with free access for an hour. So, find your corner and watch the world roll by from the window.

Calcutta South India Club Canteen

Where: 70B Hindusthan Park

(near Fabindia)

Open: 7.30am-11am for breakfast, 11am-2.30pm for lunch, 2.30pm-7.30pm only for snacks, 7.30pm-9.30pm for dinner

Pocket pinch: Rs 80-plus for two

This plain-looking, no-frills dining area on the premises of Calcutta South India Club surprisingly remains more or less crowded. The reason? Pure vegetarian south Indian food that is “value for money”.

From idli-dosa-vada-uttapam to dahi vada, upma and pulao, they serve all basic south Indian items. Loyalists come back for their Adai, a pancake made of rice and lentils, and Avial, a vegetable curry made with coconut. “We have many Bengali customers who visit often,” said canteen manager Balasubhramaniam.

The aroma of their Filter Coffee lingers on even after finishing the cup. Their buttermilk is also very popular during summer.

The club, founded in 1926, boasts of having C.V. Raman as its first president and Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan as the second. So, while at the canteen, give a thought to the heritage backing the hub.

Watz This Friday

Where: P557 Lake Road Extension (behind Vivekananda Park)

Open: 11am to 11pm

Pocket pinch: Rs 800-plus for two

Must try: Mongolian Noodles
(Rs 330-plus)

Their decor and service is good anyway. So what comes as a surprise for a hard core non-vegetarian at this all-veg cafe is the food. Especially the Mongolian Noodles. “It is the thick cream-and-pepper sauce that does the trick,” said executive chef Mayukh Basu. Veggies like onions, pok choy, bell pepper, baby corn and broccoli make it a winning combo. In fact, if any veggie-lover has to prove a point that greens can taste as good as goat, this is the place.

The menu also has pizza (thin-crust), pasta, an Asian section plus some global favourites such as risotto and Mushroom Tetrazini. For finger food with a cuppa tea or coffee, call for a plate of Kampusing (tangy veggies served in a wanton shell). Their Khao Suey and Chengiz Grill (another noodles dish with grilled greens) are also worth trying. And don’t forget the desserts, especially Chocolate Fondue.

The 48-seater has a smoking zone and a special room for small parties and gatherings. Wi-fi is free and the decor gives off a warm and comfy feel. Free parking facility makes a visit convenient.

Baati Chokha

Where: 37/1 Purna Das Road, near Triangular Park

Timings: 11.30am to 4pm; 6.30pm to 10.30pm

Pocket pinch: Rs 300-plus for two

“Gram dekhte hole ekhane chole ashben (Drop in if you want to see a village),” said the manager with a rustic smile.

Quite right. An earthen chulha with cow dung cakes as fuel, charpoys, lanterns, hand-painted bamboo rafters, a man sitting by a chakki making fresh sattu, an ektara hanging from the ceiling, a farmer’s bamboo hat, waiters in dhoti-kurta and clay-finish walls — the rural feel dominates Baati Chokha, a 40-cover all-veg restaurant serving food from Varanasi.

Your nose will tell you it can’t wait as a strong aroma of ghee wafts in the air. “What is your speciality?” we asked. “Food from Benaras sirjee — Baati Chokha, Sattu Paratha, Mixed Kalonji, Khichdi and Dal Puri,” said the waiter.

We look at the menu that comes in a kulo (winnow) and pick Baati Chokha. The baked balls of wheat dipped in ghee along with the chokha (spicy mashed veggies), dal, rice, chutney and pickle leaves little room in the tummy. But we still tried, and like, the steamed Phaaras (rice dumplings with dal filling), served with hara dhaniya and tomato chutney, Sattu Baati with Aubergine Bharta and Dal Handi.

There’s a radio too, churning out Ameen Sayani’s hit show Geetmala. Just like they do in the countryside.

And some more...

Pao Chien: 20 Hindusthan Park; 11am to 10pm. Serves Chinese food. College-goers come for their pork.

Kimli: 56G Purna Das Road; noon to 10.30pm. One of the “chilli-chicken-fried-rice” destinations in the area that serves Mei Foon (rice noodles) too.

Krystal Chopstick: 71H Hindusthan Park; noon to 10.30pm. Another “Hakka-chow-chilli-chicken” outlet.

The Four Leaves: P588 Purna Das Road; noon to 3.30pm, 7pm to 10.30pm. Has a Continental menu. Their mocktails are popular with regulars.

Sholoana Bangali: 37 Purna Das Road, near Triangular Park; noon to 5pm, 7pm to 11pm. From Bekti Paturi to Mishti Pulao, it’s an all-Bengali fare.

Tero Parbon: 49C Purna Das Road; noon to 10.30pm. The interiors are bright and clean; the food is average. Daily Bengali meals are what draw the crowd.

Jhaaley Jholey Ombole. P588 Purna Das Road; noon to 10.30pm. Serves decent Bengali cuisine. The Chingri Machher Malai Curry is popular.

Coffee and Moods: 15/1 Hindusthan Park; 9am to 10pm. A cafe with a long list of teas.